10 Keys to Breaking into Your Killboard’s Top 10

As I’ve said previously, I am a low skill point player. I’ve been in Eve less than a year, and I haven’t bought a used character. So my PvP main has only just recently broken past 15 million skill points. I am by definition still a noob. But I’m a fast-learning noob.

As I write this, I am barely a dozen kills away from being the number ten killer on my alliance’s killboard, for the second time since moving to 0.0. I probably won’t make it into the top ten by the end of this month, partly because I’m not into killmail whoring, and right now we are grinding through the now abandoned sov in Oasa and Outer Passage, after chasing xXDEATHXx out of the Drone Regions; so everyone in the alliance has a ton of structures, etc, on the killboard. If I wanted to really bore myself to death, I could go out and shoot abandoned POS modules for a week, but I play this game for “fun”.

But back in October I decided to try to break into the top ten killers list for my alliance, and managed to pull it off: IRC kill board, October 2011. And no, I didn’t do it by shooting POS mods, or by splitting my fire across non-primary targets, or by using any of the other killwhore tactics that are so popular. No, my goal was to become a valuable PvP asset to my corp and alliance despite low skill points and limited experience, not to just cheat my way into a stat with an asterisk.

Now, if I can do it, so can you. Here’s what you do:

1) Show Up

Seriously, this may be the most powerful key in this list. The people who get to the top of their killboards are the ones who log on and fleet up. Now, you don’t have to quit your job and play Eve 23/7, but you do have to log in more than once a week. And when you are logged in, you have to look for fights. Be hungry. If reds come into your space, join the fleet that responds to it. If there’s no fleet, form one yourself. If you are in an Alliance that, by policy, blue balls roaming reds, then disobey that policy. Take them on no matter the odds. You can rat or mine or whatever, but watch intel and the moment it twitches, swap your ISK-maker ship for something with teeth before you say or do anything else. Look forward to intel flashing, and cheer when a CTA is called.

2) Know Your Enemy

When I first started fighting, I didn’t know one ship from another. Yeah, I knew the general classes of ships, but specific ships by name? Nope. I didn’t know a rorqual from a rokh. In large fleet fights led by a competent FC, that didn’t matter too much, but in smaller fights it kinda hinders you. So what to do? Easy: go read the amazingly useful Know Your Enemy series of blog posts by Azual Skoll of Agony Unleashed. They are indexed in the article section of The Altruist.

3) Hang with the Cool Kids

Look at your killboard. Who is in the top ten for last month? Now find them and hang out. Is there a coms channel they sit in usually? Make that your new favorite hangout. If they put up a fleet for any reason, join that fleet. Watch how they play and listen to the conversations they have with one another. Don’t be creepy or annoying about it. Just respectfully hang out and learn from them.

4) Die. A Lot.

My attitude is that every ship I dock up is an unexpected gift. When you undock a ship, count it as lost but on loan. Make losing ships a goal. In addition to regularly being in the top twenty or so killers, I am also a regular member of the top losers club. But I mostly lose rifters on solo roams, so my ISK ratio is nearly always between 90 and 95%. Go find the stats portion of your alliance or corp’s killboard now. If you have serious PvPers in your group, you will likely see some folks in the top ten losers group who are also top ten killers. Kills cost losses. Learning costs losses. Rewards follow risks. Want to get good? Go lose some ships. In bonsai (Japanese art of training trees into miniature works of art) they say you have not begun to know what you are doing until you have killed 100 trees. And Malcolm Gladwell says in Outliers that it takes about ten thousand hours of doing something to become an expert at it. Start your ten-thousand-hour journey to PvP mastery by buying cheap PvP ships ten at time and get going. You have a lot of ships to lose.

5) Turn Off Your Computer, Luke

Fly manually. There are times when clicking orbit is the thing to do, but good PvP flying involves a whole lot more than what your ship’s automatic navigation system is capable of. Learn how to spiral in to a target so that you close distance without dropping your angular velocity below an enemy’s guns’ tracking speed. Take your ship out, drop a can, and try orbiting it at specific distances with and without prop mods to figure out what orbit setting produces what actual orbiting distance, then reset your default orbit range. Never just “Approach” an enemy unless you know he either can’t hit you, or that he’s a missile boat (missiles don’t care about tracking). Learn how to reverse direction suddenly to break an orbiting enemy out of their loop. Figure out when to obey your FC’s align, anchor, and other navigation commands, and when to follow their spirit but not their letter.

6) Hit the Intertoobs

How do you learn these things? YouTube and the web. In particular, spend time studying the offerings at the following websites:

Read the guides, blog posts and articles on these sites, and search YouTube for fight videos. Then go out and experiment with ideas from what you’ve read and seen.

7) Ask Questions

Remember the “cool kids” you’ve been hanging out with? Ask them questions. You know the PvP heavy hitters in your alliance or corp who are not easy to hang with? Send them an eve mail. Be polite with your questions, and be up front and say you are a noob trying to learn to be a valuable PvP asset in your group. Ask specific questions, and ask for general advice. But don’t overwhelm them. One or two questions, then digest the information. Over time, you may be able to have one or more players willing to actively mentor you.

8) Shoot the Primary

When it comes to maneuvering, you need to learn to have a little initiative in fights, but when it comes to target choosing, shoot the primary the FC calls. Not only will this increase the likelihood of your fleet winning the day, but it also means you aren’t wasting your efforts on targets that may never generate killmails. While doing this, split your guns into two stacks, and stagger the two slightly when shooting. This way, if your primary target instapops when (or before, for missiles) your shot hits, you can instantly move half your guns over to the secondary target. Oh, and try to fleet up with FCs who call primary, secondary, and if possible, tertiary targets. But even if your FC doesn’t do this, you can still save time by locking up additional logical targets. This is where Knowing Your Enemy comes in handy even in large fights; once you lock the primary target, lock up several more likely future primaries. It’ll save you time when the current primary goes down.

9) Pick Fights

What do you do when there are no fleets to join? Form a fleet of your own! Recruit a more experienced friend to FC it, or have a go at leading the gang yourself. Be clear to people that you are new at this, and that you are on the “lose a hundred rifters” plan. And when you don’t have groups to go out with you, grab a ship and roam solo. Decide you are going to go out until you get at least one kill or get killed yourself. And expect to mostly do the latter for awhile. Then study your kills, and, more usefully, your losses. Ask yourself questions about how things went down. Examine later with a calm mind the decisions your panicky adrenaline-charged PvP noob brain was making in the heat of the fight. Make every loss count. Most importantly, though, don’t be passive. Accept every chance to fight that comes your way, and then fill every gap in between by making your own PvP opportinities. NPC nulsec is especially good for this sort of thing, but any enemy region can work. Be prepared, though: finding a “fair” fight while roaming–especially solo–is not the goal. It’s not really very likely. Pick unfair fights. Don’t just accept that a jaguar shouldn’t try to solo a ratting drake; pick that fight then find out if what you’ve heard is true, and why (or why not).

10) Fly Mainline Fleet Ships

There is a lot of fun to be had flying all sorts of specialty ships in all sorts of specialty roles. But when you are joining someone’s fleet while trying to run up your kill stats, fleet up in the main DPS ship called for, and be sure you are fitting it to the FC’s specifications. Not just because that will put you in the kind of ship that is going to get kills; frankly, you can get on tons of kills flying an ECM boat or an interdictor. No, the reason to fly the mainline ship called for is that you will live longer while getting your kills. Specialty ships either don’t get lots of kills (scouts and logi) or tend to be primaries early (ECM and, again, logi). Also, if it’s a maelstrom fleet but tempests are also accepted, fly maelstrom. Many FCs seem to target odd men out. You don’t want to be the solo hurricane in a drake fleet.

BONUS 11) Become a Great Scout

This last tip is a way to learn PvP so you can become a top ten killer, but it will actually hurt your killboard stats while you are doing it: become a scout. Scouting is possibly the most effective and intense way of learning about PvP combat in Eve there is. But scouts don’t get on a lot of killmails. So consider spending a month or more scouting, and then switch back to DPS ships to get on the board. (Or just ignore stats and become a world-class scout!) Scouting will give you an inside view to what the FC is seeing and thinking. It will teach you how to fly your ship. You will get practice dscanning and probing and maneuvering. And you will learn the map quicker and, if you are doing it right, accumulate a great stockpile of tactical and strategic bookmarks that will be useful to you in many other PvP settings. How do you become good at scouting? That’s another article altogether.

Until then, fly like you’re already dead!

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